The Banks and Braes of Literary Scotland 2023

Status: open

30 May – 17 Jun 2023


The Banks and Braes of Literary Scotland 2023
Tour Highlights

  • Lectures and site visits by Susannah Fullerton, President of the Jane Austen Society of Australia.
  • Explore the beautiful landscapes that inspired generations of poets, from the Scottish Borders to the Highlands, including the glorious Isle of Skye, Glen Coe, Loch Lomond & Loch Katrine.
  • Visit the birthplaces and homes of some of Scotland’s greatest writers – Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, J.M. Barrie, and Robert Louis Stevenson.
  • Visit the National Library in Edinburgh, home to many precious original manuscripts of Scotland’s authors, as well as other libraries with special collections.
  • Dine in splendour at stunning Dumfries House.
  • Enjoy guided walks and special visits in the historic capital, Edinburgh.
  • Visit some fabulous Scottish castles – Glamis, Floors, Dunvegan, Eilean Donan, and Inveraray (a filming location in Downton Abbey)
  • Explore the city of Glasgow’s rich artistic collections, and see buildings associated with Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
  • Take a trip on the famous Jacobite Railway.
  • Dine at historic taverns and restaurants with literary associations, and conclude with a private dinner at Robert Louis Stevenson’s home.
  • Spend 2 nights within the magnificent Cairngorms National Park at The Fife Arms, a 5-star boutique hotel housed in a former 19th-century coaching inn featuring an exceptional art collection.

Overnight St Boswells (2 nights) • Ayr (3 nights) • Glasgow (3 nights) • Inveraray (1 night) • Portree, Isle of Skye (3 nights) • Braemar (2 nights) • Edinburgh (4 nights)


The tour is timed for early June when the gardens enjoy their late spring flush. We avoid the busy July/August summer season when the biting midges are most active.

About the Tour

When Robert Louis Stevenson was ill in Samoa, his thoughts turned to the land of his birth: “Be it granted to me to behold you again in dying, Hills of home” he wrote in Songs of Travel. He did not live to fulfil that wish, but died in Samoa and was buried on a mountain overlooking the Pacific. His body had gone travelling, but Stevenson’s heart had remained in the bonny hills of Scotland. As with so many great Scottish writers, his love for his country shines through his works.

A great work of literature has its own life and can be appreciated without knowledge of the places and buildings mentioned in it, and yet an understanding of the environment and experiences of the author can hugely enrich our appreciation of literature. Visiting places connected with famous novels, poems or plays brings the excitement of recognising places we have long known in our imaginations and the thrill of new perceptions into literary works. To connect with the lives of Scottish writers, to see firsthand the landscapes they described, to walk through their homes and to see the original manuscripts of their novels and poems – these are awe-inspiring and wonderful experiences!

This tour offers you that opportunity. We will follow in the footsteps of Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, James Boswell, John Buchan and J.M. Barrie. You will encounter authors of whom you perhaps know little – poet Neil Munro, novelist Lewis Grassic Gibbon, naturalist Gavin Maxwell who wrote of otters, Violet Jacob, and Muriel Spark who wrote of schoolgirls. Modern writers are still being inspired by the Scottish cities and countryside – Ian Rankin and Quintin Jardine portray their fictional detectives delving into Edinburgh drug crime and prostitution. J.K. Rowling created Harry Potter in Edinburgh cafes and Alexander McCall Smith has made Scotland Street in Edinburgh famous around the world. Their works are a part of our tour as well. Sometimes we will follow in the footsteps of English writers who have travelled north – Dr Johnson may have remarked that “the noblest prospect a Scotsman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England”, but he loved touring the Highlands with his friend James Boswell, and we will travel part of the route they both described so memorably in their travel books.

This will be a cultural journey as well as a literary one, with visits to historic castles, to places of battle and massacre that have inspired ballads and songs, to sites connected with music such as Loch Lomond and the crossing to the Isle of Skye. We will look out for the legendary monster at Loch Ness, and will learn about the great architectural brothers Robert and William Adam. You will enjoy the contrasts of being in an elegant Georgian city one day and amidst wild scenery the next; you will visit grand homes and humble cottages; you will climb up a lighthouse, and search for otters. Libraries, those rich repositories of literature, are included, with private viewings of some of their treasures. In shops filled with literary memorabilia you can purchase or browse. Tartans and shortbread, banks and braes, whisky and wynds, bagpipes and haggis – all will add local colour and Scottishness to our journey.

In all these places we will investigate the role played by a sense of place in literary creation. Just how much did environment shape each writer? How did a weaver’s cottage in Kirriemuir influence the creation of Peter Pan, what was it about Georgian Edinburgh that inspired the creation of Miss Jean Brodie, why did the job of ploughing result in one of Burns’ greatest poems? Where does local dialect shape works of Scottish literature – Burns and Lewis Grassic Gibbon chose to write in the vernacular and this is what makes their works so unique, but how does their writing transcend the regional to become universal? In what ways has Scotland’s turbulent history formed novels such as Kidnapped or Sunset Song and poems such as Scots Wha Hae and Tam O’Shanter? How did Scottish writers begin the country’s tourist industry? This will be a journey through extremely beautiful scenery and varied landscapes, but it will also be a journey through the very different minds and imaginations of some marvellous writers.

It is not possible to include all the literary sites of Scotland in this tour – the country’s written heritage is too vast.  The tour aims to be informative, varied and fun. It will inspire you to read new works and re-discover old favourites, it will delight you with magnificent landscapes and instruct you about the lives of famous writers. You will travel in the company of others who share your fascination with good books. Treat yourself and discover the literary and historical treasures of glorious Scotland.



The following itinerary lists a range of site visits which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but some require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure.  The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight/ferry schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches and dinners as indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=dinner.

St Boswells - 2 nights

Day 1: Tuesday 30 May, Arrive Edinburgh Airport – St Boswells
  • Transfer Edinburgh Airport to St Boswells
  • Orientation Walk
  • Light Evening Dinner

Meeting Point: Please meet your group leaders at the Edinburgh Airport at 3pm.

Our tour will officially commence with a transfer from Edinburgh Airport to the historic Buccleuch Arms in St Boswells. St Boswells, which lies on the south side of the River Tweed, is in the heart of Sir Walter Scott Country. The town is located on the route of St Cuthbert’s Way, a long-distance footpath linking Melrose Abbey to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. In the evening we will take a short stroll through the village before enjoying our first group dinner at our charming hotel. (Overnight St Boswells) D

Day 2: Wednesday 31 May, St Boswells – Kelso – Peebles – St Boswells
  • Floors Castle & Gardens (to be confirmed in 2022)
  • The John Buchan Story Museum, Peebles
  • Literary walking tour of Peebles

This morning we visit Floors Castle, the country house designed by Scotland’s leading early 18th-century architect, William Adam, for the first Duke of Roxburghe.  Overlooking the valley where the Tweed and Teviot rivers converge, it also features spectacular gardens. Sir Walter Scott described Floors Castle with its idyllic setting as “a kingdom for Oberon and Titania to dwell in”. Floors also became ‘Greystoke’, ancestral seat of the Earl of Greystoke, aka Tarzan, in the 1984 movie Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes. In 2011 an unpublished letter written by Robert Burns was unearthed at Floors. It was sent by Burns from Ellisland Farm, and is dated 13 May 1789. Accompanying the letter is an early version of the Burns poem, On Seeing a Wounded Hare. We will view this recent ‘discovery’ and enjoy a guided tour of the castle, followed by a tour of the gardens with the Head Gardener. Lunch will be provided in the Courtyard Café.

The Border Country was the site of many battles between Scots and English and it’s an extremely picturesque part of Scotland. This afternoon we drive to Peebles. Brothers William and Robert Chambers (of Chambers Dictionary fame) were born here and John Buchan lived for a while in Peebles. When we arrive we’ll visit the John Buchan Museum, situated in the Chambers Institution in Peebles High Street, a building that William Chambers gifted to the town. John Buchan was a diplomat, biographer, publisher and politician. He longed to be remembered as a serious man of letters, but it was his 1914 ‘shocker’ The Thirty-Nine Steps for which he is remembered today. We shall take a late afternoon guided walk around this charming market town. (Overnight St Boswells) BL

Ayr - 3 nights

Day 3: Thursday 1 June, St Boswells – Dryburgh – Melrose  – Selkirk – Ayr
  • Dryburgh Abbey incl. the grave of Sir Walter Scott
  • Scott’s View, Melrose
  • Abbotsford: The Home of Sir Walter Scott
  • Sir Walter Scott’s Courtroom, Selkirk
  • Dinner at The Tam O’Shanter Inn

Dryburgh Abbey was founded in 1150 and Sir Walter Scott and Douglas Haig are buried in its grounds. We take a guided tour of this beautiful and peaceful place.

From Dryburgh Abbey, we drive to ‘Scott’s View’, his favourite stopping place, for a view over the Tweed. Scott stopped here so often that, on the day of his funeral, the horses taking his body to the Abbey stopped automatically in the place that was so special to their master.

Then we visit Abbotsford, loved home of Sir Walter Scott. Scott single-handedly reinvented Scottish culture, vastly increased Scottish tourism, and restored his country to royal favour. He also transformed Abbotsford from a run-down farm named ‘Clarty Hole’ to a mock-baronial mansion. We will see its treasury of books, armoury and many literary and historical mementoes, and explore its lovely gardens.

Another attractive Border town is Selkirk. Here Sir Walter Scott’s statue stands outside the courthouse where he worked as Sheriff. The courthouse is an excellent museum which we will visit. Selkirk was also the birthplace of Mungo Park, surgeon, explorer and author and he is commemorated by a statue in the High Street.

In the late afternoon we continue to the town of Ayr, located on the southwest coast of Scotland. On arrival we dine at the Tam O’Shanter Inn, which Robert Burns is said to have frequented.  Burns based the character of Tam on his friend Douglas Graham who was renowned for getting seriously drunk on market days, reputedly at this tavern. We will enjoy dinner in this traditional thatched pub, its walls lined with poetry, though we will perhaps be rather more abstemious than was Tam. (Overnight Ayr) BLD

Day 4: Friday 2 June, Ayr – Auchinleck  – Cumnock – Ayr
  • Morning at leisure in the historic country town of Ayr
  • Auchinleck House: The home of diarist James Boswell
  • Auchinleck Old Kirk and Graveyard
  • Dumfries House: Life in Georgian times, Cumnock
  • Dumfries House: Private dinner, Cumnock

This morning is free for you to explore the town of Ayr. Daniel Defoe commented on its “good river” and “handsome stone bridge of four arches” (Burns wrote his poem The Twa Brigs O’Ayr about this bridge and its newer rival further along the river).

Auchinleck  House was the family seat of James Boswell, 9th Laird of Auchinleck, writer, diarist and biographer of Dr Johnson. Boswell disappointed his father, a judge, by turning into a wild young man, and his exploits with women were notorious. By special appointment, we will see the interior of Auchinleck House – this is not open to the general public. Boswell once described his home as “a most sweet, romantic place”. We also visit the local church and view the Boswell exhibition to learn more about this social-climbing, complex and remarkable man.

Dumfries House, now owned by The Princes Foundation, is a Palladian country house built in the 1750s for the 5th Earl of Dumfries by John Adam and Robert Adam. It is noted for having retained much of its original 18th century furniture, including fine examples of the work of Thomas Chippendale. This stunning house was recently saved by the intervention of Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay.

In the early evening we take a private tour of the house to view its remarkable collection. Our tour will follow the theme of life within a Georgian country house. We’ll learn about the family members and how the house would have operated for them. A file of letters, sent by a member of the family from Dumfries House, provides a wonderful insight into everyday life! Reference will also be made to Robert Burns who, although there is no evidence he visited Dumfries House, was friendly with the Estate Factor and included the poem To John Kennedy, Dumfries House in his collected works. There are also interesting historical links between the Earls of Dumfries and James Boswell, who was courted by the 6th Earl and who dined at Dumfries House. Our tour will conclude with an atmospheric private dinner in either the Library or the grander Great Stewards Dining Room (Overnight Ayr) BD

Day 5: Saturday 3 June, Ayr – Auldgirth  – Dumfries – Ayr
  • Robert Burns Ellisland Farm, Auldgirth
  • Lunch at The Globe Inn, Dumfries
  • Robert Burns House, Dumfries
  • Robert Burns Centre, Dumfries

Scotland’s National Bard is Robert Burns and today we visit places associated with his extraordinary life and works. Ellisland Farm was rented by Burns from 1788 to 1791 and, like his other farms, it failed to flourish. It was while living here that he took on the extra job of excise officer, and while here he wrote his masterpiece Tam O’Shanter. Burns’ time at Ellisland was a particularly creative period for him, with over 130 poems and songs, but, because his crops were not as productive, Burns was glad to leave “this accursed farm” for Dumfries.

In Dumfries we find the historic Globe Inn, where Burns frequently over-imbibed. He also got the landlord’s niece pregnant! His favourite chair is still there and we will enjoy lunch where the very first Burns Supper was ever held.

A short walk away is the Burns House. Such was their admiration for Burns that Wordsworth, Coleridge and Keats all came here on literary pilgrimage. It was in this sandstone house that Burns died, aged only 37. The nearby Robert Burns Centre is an award-winning visitor centre telling the story of Burns’ rise from humble ploughman to internationally famous poet. (Overnight Ayr) BL

Glasgow - 3 nights

Day 6: Sunday 4 June, Ayr – Alloway  – Tarbolton – Mauchline – Glasgow
  • Robert Burns Birthplace Museum, Alloway
  • The Bachelor’s Club, Tarbolton
  • Afternoon tea at Poosie Nansies Inn, Mauchline

Much of today will be dedicated to further travels in the footsteps of Robert Burns. Ralph Waldo Emerson said of Burns: “Burns has given voice to all the experiences of common life … he has made the Lowland Scotch a Doric dialect of fame. It is the only example in history of a language made classic by the genius of a single man.” We see where it all began in the small white house in Alloway where Burns was born in 1759, with its adjacent museum containing rare manuscripts and editions. The bed in which his mother gave birth to him is on display and there are many other items which make this a very special place of pilgrimage.

The raucous adventure of Tam O’Shanter is Burns’s finest poem. To get a vivid sense of its setting we will visit Auld Alloway Kirk where Tam saw the witches dancing in an eerie glow and where the poet’s father is buried. There we can also see the Brig O’Doon which poor Tam must cross in order to escape the pursuing witch, and the Burns Monument.

In the afternoon we depart for Glasgow via Tarbolton and Mauchline. In Tarbolton we visit the Bachelors’ Club. This restored 17th-century thatched building is where Burns attended dancing lessons in 1779 and in 1780 formed a debating club. Nearby is the town of Mauchline where we stop for afternoon tea at the historical Poosie Nansies Inn. Burns met his long-suffering wife, Jean Armour, in Mauchline. We will view the exterior of their home which now serves as a small museum. Nearby, the graveyard of St Michael’s Church contains several of the couple’s children, along with the poet’s brother and local people immortalised in his poems.

We spend the next 3 nights in Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland and today a very lively, fascinating place. (Overnight Glasgow) B

Day 7: Monday 5 June, Glasgow
  • The Burrell Collection
  • The Mitchell Library – Special Collections: Robert Burns Collection
  • Time at leisure

The Burrell Collection is a Glasgow museum that is not to be missed. The building in Pollok Park seems unassuming, but inside is a treasure trove of art, crafts and paintings. Superb medieval tapestries, Rodin’s The Thinker, a Rembrandt self-portrait, paintings by Degas and Manet – these are just a few of the items in the collection.

This afternoon, by special appointment, we visit the Robert Burns Collection which is held in the Special Collections department of the Mitchell Library. The collection is one of the largest, most wide-ranging and growing collections of books on Burns in the world. Highlights of the collection include 15 original manuscripts in the poet’s hand, the only surviving letter written by Burns in Scots, and the only copy in existence of The Ordination.

Following our visit there will be some free time to explore Glasgow at leisure. (Overnight Glasgow) B

Day 8: Tuesday 6 June, Glasgow – Helensburgh – Glasgow
  • The Hill House: Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s architectural masterpiece
  • Lunch at Mackintosh at the Willow
  • Walking tour of Glasgow
  • Drinks at The Glasgow Art Club

This morning we drive from Glasgow to The Hill House (1902–1904), Helensburgh, designed for Walter Blackie of the publishers Blackie and Son. This is one of Charles Rennie and Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh’s most famous works, probably second only to their Glasgow School of Art. Mackintosh also designed most of the interior, furniture and fittings. His attention to detail extended to prescribing the colour of cut flowers that the Blackies might place on a table in the living room! As part of the 10-year conservation programme, the London firm of Carmody Groarke has designed ‘The Box’, a steel frame structure covered in chainmail mesh, which encloses the house and protects it from the weather. There are elevated walkways looping around and over the top of the house that afford unique perspectives of the house and surrounding countryside. Following a private tour of the house, there will be time to explore ‘The Box’ and the lovely gardens.

On our return to Glasgow we will lunch at the recently restored Willow Tea Rooms on Sauchiehall Street, now called ‘Mackintosh at the Willow’. They are the only surviving tea rooms designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh – they were created for local entrepreneur and patron Miss Kate Cranston.

Adam Smith, James Boswell, Tobias Smollett, John Buchan, AJ Cronin and Alexander MacLean were all graduates of Glasgow University and the city has a vibrant contemporary literary scene. This afternoon we take a guided walk led by Peter Trowles, the former Mackintosh Curator at the Glasgow School of Art. We finish the walk at the Glasgow Art Club where we will have a tour of the building by the Club’s Archivist, and a welcome drink. After this visit, the evening will be at leisure. (Overnight Glasgow) BL

Inveraray - 1 night

Day 9: Wednesday 7 June, Glasgow – Loch Katrine – Inveraray
  • Loch Katrine: Cruise on the Sir Walter Scott Steamship
  • Inveraray Castle (to be confirmed in 2022)
  • Para Handy Cottage: birthplace of Neil Munro, Inveraray

The Trossachs, an area known as ‘the Highlands in miniature’, became a mecca for tourists after Sir Walter Scott’s popular works The Lady of the Lake and Rob Roy appeared. The ‘Lady’ was Ellen Douglas and her ‘lake’ was Loch Katrine. We will view the loch from the Sir Walter Scott Steamer, and admire the scenery just as Wordsworth, Keats and so many Scott fans did.

In the afternoon we drive to Inveraray Castle, one of Scotland’s finest stately homes. The ancestral seat of the Dukes of Argyll, Chiefs of Clan Campbell, Inveraray Castle was designed by Roger Morris and decorated by Robert Mylne. The castle’s 16-acre garden includes formal lawns and flowerbeds which feature a stunning collection of rhododendrons and azaleas (in flower from April to June). Inveraray castle was the chosen location for the 2012 Christmas episode of Downton Abbey during which the Granthams and their staff travel north to the fictional Scottish home of ‘Duneagle Castle’.

We spend the night at the Inveraray Inn which overlooks Loch Fyne. In 1787 Robert Burns was rejected as a guest of the Duke of Argyll at Inveraray Castle and most likely stayed at this inn. The journalist, author and literary critic, Neil Munro was born in a cottage in Inveraray, the illegitimate son of a kitchen maid. Munro once wrote: “I had the right fond heart for my own countryside”. We will take an evening leisurely stroll through the town to view the little home where he was born (which now bears a plaque commemorating him) – it’s now called Para Handy Cottage. (Overnight Inveraray) BLD

Portree, Isle of Skye - 3 nights

Day 10: Thursday 8 June, Inveraray – Glencoe – Fort William – Mallaig – Portree
  • Glencoe National Nature Reserve: The An Torr Trail (1hr easy trail) & Visitors Centre
  • The Jacobite Steam Train from Fort William to Mallaig

We drive north today, taking ‘the Road to the Isles’ up into the Highlands which are such an historic and stunning part of Scotland. Glencoe, site of the infamous massacre which has been mourned over in story and song, is in Kidnapped country where David Balfour and Alan Breck Stewart make their memorable escape through the heather. We shall take a one-hour guided walk in this awe-inspiring valley on the picturesque An Torr Trail before visiting the excellent Glencoe Visitors Centre which explains the 1692 massacre. Our lunch break there will give us time to admire the spectacular glen.

Today’s travellers can take the bridge across to the Isle of Skye, but that’s an unromantic way to get there. We shall drive to Fort William where we board The Jacobite steam train. The Jacobite runs a distance of 70 kilometres on the West Highland line between Fort William and Mallaig, passing through an area of great scenic beauty including alongside Loch Eil, Glenfinnan Viaduct and Arisaig. The line, which first opened in 1901, was made famous as the ‘Hogwarts Express’ in the Harry Potter films, and it has appeared in dozens of other films as well.

After alighting from the train, we’ll take the ferry from Mallaig, crossing as did Bonnie Prince Charlie “like a bird on the wing, over the sea to Skye”. Many writers have loved Skye – Robert Louis Stevenson wrote The Skye Boat Song, Mary Stewart set her popular novel Wildfire at Midnight there, George Orwell and Compton MacKenzie were frequent visitors. Our base on Skye for 3 nights will be in the colourful harbour town of Portree. (Overnight Portree, Isle of Skye) BD

Day 11: Friday 9 June, Portree – Dunvegan – Trotternish Peninsula – Portree
  • Dunvegan Castle & Gardens
  • Lunch at The Three Chimneys, Dunvegan
  • The Trotternish Loop

Skye is the most romantic and picturesque of the Western Isles and we spend a wonderful day exploring its magnificent scenery and literary connections. We will be following in the footsteps of Dr Johnson and James Boswell who travelled the Highlands together in 1773. Both men wrote accounts of their travels and these make fascinating reading. Dunvegan Castle was their base for 10 days – Johnson was impressed by the hospitality he received and today his portrait is on display there. We will tour the castle, home of Clan MacLeod.

Following our visit to the castle we shall dine at The Three Chimneys, a world-renowned Scottish restaurant set in a stunning location beside the sea.

The best views of Skye are those dominated by the Cuillins, dark jagged mountains that inspired Mary Stewart’s story of mountaineering and murder, Wildfire at Midnight. A scenic drive, with photo opportunities will be the last item on the day’s itinerary. (Overnight Portree, Isle of Skye) BLD

Day 12: Saturday 10 June, Portree – Kyle of Lochalsh – Eilean Bàn – Armadale –  Portree
  • The Bright Water Visitor Centre, Kyle of Lochalsh
  • Eilean Bàn: Gavin Maxwell cottage, lighthouse & wildlife hide
  • Armadale Castle: Library, Archives & Gardens, Isle of Skye

Near the water at Kyleakin is the Bright Water Visitor Centre, which has interactive displays and information about Gavin Maxwell and the otters. Just below the Skye Road bridge is the little island of Eilean Bàn (now linked to the mainland by a causeway) and a fascinating cottage with one very long room. Originally it was home to lighthouse keepers, but then became the residence of author, naturalist, aristocrat, shark-hunter and social renegade Gavin Maxwell, author of Ring of Bright Water. “I felt as if I were coming home”, Maxwell wrote when he moved into it in 1968. We can climb to the top of the island’s lighthouse which was built by Robert Louis Stevenson’s father and uncle, and hopefully see the island’s resident otters.

Armadale Castle, a ruined country house, was once the seat of the MacDonalds of Sleat. Since 1925 the castle, abandoned by the MacDonald family, has fallen into ruin but the magnificent 40 acres of woodland gardens have been maintained. We will tour the gardens and take a private tour of the Library & Archives which are housed in the Museum building. Covering all aspects of Scottish culture and history, the library has one of the best reference collections in northwest Scotland, including a fine collection of poetry from the 15th century to the 21st century. (Overnight Portree, Isle of Skye) BLD

Braemar - 2 nights

Day 13: Sunday 11 June, Portree – Loch Duich – Loch Ness – Braemar
  • Eilean Donan Castle (to be confirmed in 2022)
  • Highland drive via Loch Ness

Eilean Donan Castle is probably the most photographed castle in Scotland. Perched on a rock in a wonderfully strategic position, the castle was said to have been envisaged by its creator in a dream. It has been used by many movie-makers, notably in the James Bond film The World is Not Enough.

We continue our scenic drive to Loch Ness, where we pause for photos and a bit of Nessie-spotting. Stories of a beast in the loch date back to the 6th century and children’s literature has made the most of such a monster, as has the Scottish tourism industry. Glen Urquhart Castle is beside the loch and, like Dr Johnson, we will stop there to admire the views.

We spend the next 2 nights in the delightful village of Braemar, situated at the eastern gateway to the Cairngorms National Park. This evening’s dinner will be at the hotel. (Overnight Braemar) BLD

Day 14: Monday 12 June, Braemar – Montrose – Stonehaven – Dunnottar Castle – Braemar
  • House of Dun: William Adam’s Georgian country house, Montrose
  • Harbour town of Stonehaven
  • Optional walk to the dramatic ruined Castle of Dunnottar (immortalised in Braveheart)
  • Robert Louis Stevenson Cottage, 3 Glenshee Road, Braemar

The writer and poet, Violet Jacob (1863-1946), author of Flemington and Tales of Angus, was a member of the Kennedy-Erskine family and was born in the House of Dun. We take a private tour of this charming Georgian country house which was designed by William Adam.

From Montrose we journey to the charming harbour town of Stonehaven. Lewis Grassic Gibbon, pseudonym of James Leslie Mitchell, grew up in Stonehaven. He is best known for his trilogy A Scots Quair, set in northeast Scotland and considered to be among the defining works of 20thcentury Scottish Renaissance. The first volume in the trilogy, Sunset Song, was voted Scotland’s most loved novel.

Following a light lunch in one of the harbour’s cafés, there will be an optional walk along the coastal path to Dunnottar Castle. This ruined medieval fortress, perched on a rocky headland, has been besieged by Vikings, captured by William Wallace (of Braveheart fame) and was once repository of the crown jewels of Scotland. Note: The walk from Stonehaven follows a cliff path which, while safe and sound underfoot, needs a reasonable level of fitness and appropriate footwear. It’s quite steep at the initial point and levels off somewhat after that. Once at the Castle there are around 260 stairs to go down and up to get into the Castle.

In the late afternoon we return to Braemar for a short stroll of the village and to view the exterior of the Robert Louis Stevenson Cottage. This is the house where Stevenson, who suffered from respiratory illness, spent a summer recuperating – the village was renowned for its healthy air. The plaque above the door reads ‘HERE R L STEVENSON SPENT THE SUMMER OF 1881 AND WROTE ‘TREASURE ISLAND’, HIS FIRST GREAT WORK.’ (Overnight Braemar) BLD

Edinburgh - 4 nights

Day 15: Tuesday 13 June, Braemar – Kirriemuir – Glamis Castle – Edinburgh
  • J M Barrie’s Birthplace, Kirriemuir
  • Glamis Castle & Gardens

On May 9th, 1860, in the village of Kirriemuir, there was one major event and one, apparently, minor event. The Barrie family purchased ‘six hair-bottomed chairs’ and J.M. Barrie was born. As he was his parent’s 9th child, his birth was the minor event; the arrival of the chairs was far more exciting! We will visit Barrie’s birthplace (the chairs are still there), see the washhouse which inspired Wendy’s house in Peter Pan, and see the town’s statue of the boy who never grew old.

Picturesque Glamis Castle has been owned by the Lyon family since the 14th century. It was the childhood home of H.M. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother (Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon), and the legendary setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth (Macbeth is Thane of Glamis). Sir Walter Scott spent a night in the castle in 1793. In 1830 Scott published an account of his stay, and added that Glamis was said to hide a secret room. The legend of this secret chamber containing a hidden heir, was one of the great talking points of the 19th century.  J.M. Barrie visited the castle and read stories to the two young princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret. We take a guided tour of the castle and its Italianate Garden, laid out in 1910 by the Queen Mother’s mother, Countess Cecilia.

Then we travel south to Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, rich with literary associations. In fact, UNESCO designated it its very first ‘World City of Literature’. (Overnight Edinburgh) BL

Day 16: Wednesday 14 June, Edinburgh
  • Palace of Holyroodhouse
  • The Royal Mile: Canongate Church, John Knox House & St Giles’ Cathedral
  • Lady Stair’s House Writer’s Museum
  • Time at leisure

Edinburgh, the ‘Athens of the North’, has been home to almost every great Scottish writer – Robbie Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Boswell, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Muriel Spark, and many more. Today it is home to Alexander McCall Smith, Ian Rankin and J.K. Rowling. We will spend the morning exploring one of the most historic streets in Britain – the Royal Mile, which Tobias Smollett called “a hot bed of genius” in 1766.

We begin with a visit to the royal residence Holyroodhouse, where Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth to James I of England, and where William Dunbar was once court poet. Continuing along the Royal Mile, we visit Cannongate Kirk with its charming memorial to poet Robert Ferguson, pass by John Knox’s House and call in at St Giles Cathedral with its memorials to Burns, Stevenson and to Scott’s novel The Heart of Midlothian.

Following some time at leisure for lunch, we make our way to Lady Stair’s House, a historic tenement which now houses a writers’ museum. Dedicated to the lives and works of Scotland’s greatest literary figures, the museum has permanent displays on Scott, Burns and Stevenson, and changing exhibitions on contemporary Scottish authors.

The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. You may wish to visit Edinburgh Castle, the earliest parts of which date from 1100. It has a stunning setting and holds the Scottish Crown Jewels (found, after being mislaid for many years, by Sir Walter Scott). Or you could visit historic Mary King’s Close, the excellent Scottish National Gallery, or make your way to Leith to board the Royal Yacht Britannia. (Overnight Edinburgh) B

Day 17: Thursday 15 June, Edinburgh – South Queensferry – Swanston – Colinton – Corstophine Hill – Edinburgh
  • Edinburgh New Town Coach Tour: In the Footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Lunch at Hawes Inn, South Queensferry
  • Village of Swanston incl. Swanston Cottage
  • Colinton Village: RL Stevenson Poetry Trail, Colinton Parish Church & the Swing Café
  • David Balfour and Alan Breck Stewart Statue, Corstophine Hill

In the late 1700s Edinburgh was a stinking, dirty city. Its main streets were famous for the calls of ‘Gardyloo’ as residents emptied chamber pots from upper windows. Many residents therefore were eager to escape the filth when a New Town was planned, with elegant squares and gardens, north of the city. James Boswell, Burns, Scott, David Hume, Shelley, RL Stevenson, Kenneth Grahame and Hugh MacDiarmid have all been residents in this UNESCO World Heritage area.

Today we follow in the footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson. First we visit Stevenson’s birthplace at 8 Howard Place. From there we’ll walk to the Royal Botanic Gardens to see the pond where as a boy he sailed his paper boats.  The family moved to 9 Inverleith Terrace in January 1851 and then to 17 Heriot Row where RLS spent most of his boyhood. We’ll pass these residences and also view 14 Canonmills, where he attended school in 1857.  We’ll view the Edinburgh Academy (his high school), and visit the Old College Quadrangle at the university, where he studied law. As a slight detour we will call into the Oxford Bar, Inspector Rebus’s favourite pub (and the favourite of his creator, Ian Rankin).

Late morning, we depart Edinburgh for lunch at the Hawes Inn at South Queensferry. The 17th-century inn is almost underneath the Forth railway bridge, and it was the setting for the kidnap in Kidnapped. The inn is wonderfully atmospheric and has Stevenson memorabilia – we will enjoy lunch here.

In 1867, RLS’s father leased Swanston Cottage, a property just outside Edinburgh on the northern slopes of the Pentland Hills. The family often stayed there, and RLS wrote about the Swanston gardener Robert Young and the shepherd John Tod in An Old Scotch Gardener (1871) and Pastoral (1887). These essays were later included in Memories and Portraits (1887). He also used Swanston in his fiction – it was Flora’s home in St Ives (1898). We will visit this tiny hamlet which features a number of charming thatched cottages and view the exterior of RLS’s cottage.

From Swanston we travel to the picturesque village of Colinton. Colinton Manse, by the Water of Leith, was home to Stevenson’s grandfather, Lewis Balfour, who was minister of Colinton Parish Church. As a child, Stevenson often visited here. He developed a strong bond with his Aunt Jane Whyte Balfour, who lived at the manse. He also played here with his cousins. The manse’s garden and his memories of playing there inspired poems in A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885). Stevenson also wrote about his experiences at Colinton in The Manse (1887), later included in Memories and Portraits. We will follow the RL Stevenson Poetry Trail, marked by a series of plaques, through the village to view the house and church, and enjoy afternoon tea at The Swing Café. Stevenson wrote a poem about the swing in the manse garden where he had played as a child (“How do you like to go up in a swing, Up in the air so blue?”). The location of the swing can be seen, outside the Dell Room window, in the old yew tree.

On our return journey to Edinburgh we make a brief stop to view the statue of David Balfour and Alan Breck Stewart, the main characters in Kidnapped. They said farewell to each other at a spot referred to as “Rest and Be Thankful” on Corstorphine Hill, which is where the statue stands. It was unveiled in 2004 by Sir Sean Connery. (Overnight Edinburgh) BL

Day 18: Friday 16 June, Edinburgh
  • National Library of Scotland
  • White Hart Inn
  • Afternoon at leisure
  • Farewell Dinner at The Stevenson House

The National Library of Scotland on George IV Bridge has priceless archives, including manuscripts of Hugh MacDiarmid, Robert Garioch and others. A recent addition is the John Murray archive, an incredible collection of papers and letters relating to the publishing firm of John Murray, founded by a Scot but based in London. Seven generations of John Murrays published works by the great authors of their day – Darwin, Jane Austen, Byron, David Livingstone, Disraeli, Washington Irving, Herman Melville and many more. We will enjoy a talk about the incredible collection before looking round the exhibition.

The Grassmarket is a street rich in literary associations, from William Dunbar to Wordsworth. We will stroll to the Grassmarket via the Elephant House Café, where J.K. Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter book, and will stop and admire Greyfriar’s Bobby, the statue of a faithful little dog. In the Grassmarket we’ll enjoy a short walk along the historic street with its tales of hangings, body-snatchers and visiting poets. Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy stayed at the White Hart Inn because it was cheap.

Following an afternoon at leisure we end our tour with a private farewell dinner at Robert Louis Stevenson’s home. He grew up in this house, and was often ill in bed there. His illness inspired The Land of Counterpane, while the lamplighter who came along the street each night to light the gas was the inspiration behind his poem The Lamplighter. The old lamp outside the house has been preserved because of this poem. It’s a very special place for our last night of the tour. (Overnight Edinburgh) BD

Day 19: Saturday 17 June, Depart Edinburgh
  • Tour concludes in the morning
  • At leisure/Check out

Our tour ends in Edinburgh after breakfast. In the morning you will be required to check out of the hotel. Please contact ASA if you require assistance with a transfer to Edinburgh Airport. B



ASA has selected 3- to 5-star hotels that are themselves historical buildings and/or are located in historical centres. All hotels provide rooms with en suite bathroom. A hotel list will be given to all participants prior to departure, in the meantime a summary is given below:

  • St Boswells (2 nights): 4-star Buccleuch Arms Hotel – an award-winning hotel dating back to 1836, located within a 5-minute walk from the River Tweed in the heart of the Scottish Borders. www.buccleucharms.com
  • Ayr (3 nights): 4-star Fairfield House Hotel – housed in a restored Victorian mansion situated on Ayr’s seafront. www.fairfieldhotel.co.uk
  • Glasgow (3 nights): 4-star Apex City of Glasgow Hotel – a modern, boutique-style hotel in the heart of the vibrant city centre. www.apexhotels.co.uk
  • Inveraray (1 night): 3-star The Inveraray Inn – opened in 1755, this historic hotel which was designed by John Adam, overlooks Loch Fyne. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, various famous figures stayed at, and in some cases wrote about, The Inveraray Inn including Robert Burns, Johnson & Boswell and Dorothy Wordsworth. www.inveraray-inn.co.uk
  • Portree, Isle of Skye (3 nights): 4-star Skeabost Hotel– 23 acres of woodland on the edge of a loch, with views out to sea and crofting hamlets. https://skyehotel.co.uk/skeabost/
  • Braemar (2 nights): 5-star The Fife Arms – housed in a Victorian coaching inn, situated within the village of Braemar, deep in the breathtaking Cairngorms National Park. Owned by Iwan and Manuela Wirth of internationally acclaimed art gallery Hauser & Wirth, the property has recently undergone a complete renovation and boasts a stunning art collection and a garden by a royal-approved designer. thefifearms.com
  • Edinburgh (4 nights): 5-star InterContinental Edinburgh The George – undergone a recent multi-million pound refurbishment, this Grade II listed building comprising at its heart, five Georgian townhouses built in 1775 for Edinburgh’s most prosperous citizens, including acclaimed novelist Susan Ferrier and her lawyer father James Ferrier. www.edinburgh.intercontinental.com

NoteHotels are subject to change, in which case a hotel of similar standard will be provided.

Single Supplement

Payment of this supplement will ensure accommodation is for sole occupancy throughout the tour. The number of spaces available for single occupancy is extremely limited. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

How to book

How to Book


Please complete the ASA RESERVATION APPLICATION and send it to Australians Studying Abroad together with your non-refundable deposit of AUD $500.00 per person payable to Australians Studying Abroad.

Covid-19 Vaccination Certificate

Commencing from November 2021 it will be a condition of travel that all group leaders and ASA travellers are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. All participants must send ASA a copy of their vaccination certificate at the time of submitting their Reservation Application Form. For information on how to obtain either a Covid-19 digital certificate or a certificate in PDF format please view the Australian Government Services Australia “What types of proof there are” web page.

Practical Information

Practical Information

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 19-day Literary Tour of Scotland involves:

  • A daily schedule generally involving an early-morning departure (between 8.00-8.30am), concluding in the late afternoon (5.30-6.00pm).
  • 2-3 site visits most days involving up to 1-2 hours of walking at each (sometimes on uneven terrain, cobbled streets, and steep slopes) and/or standing, interspersed with coach travel.
  • The use of audio headsets which amplify the voice of your guide (despite noisy surroundings). This technology also allows you to move freely during site visits without missing any information.
  • 3- to 5-star hotels with six hotel changes.
  • You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person (where porterage is available).

It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers: www.smartraveller.gov.au

Tour Price & Inclusions

Tour Price & Inclusions

AUD $14,780.00 Land Content Only

AUD $2880.00 Single Supplement

Tour Price (Land Content Only) includes:
  • Accommodation in twin-share rooms with private facilities in 3-, 4- and 5-star hotels
  • Breakfast daily, lunches and dinners indicated in the tour itinerary, where: B=breakfast, L=lunch & D=dinner
  • Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included.
  • Transportation by air-conditioned coach
  • Arrival transfer Edinburgh Airport to St Boswells
  • Porterage of one piece of luggage per person where available at hotels (Buccleuch Arms hotel does not offer this service, and not at airports)
  • Lecture and site-visit program
  • Tour Handbook
  • Entrance fees
  • Use of audio headsets during site visits
  • Tips for the coach driver, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tour Price (Land Content Only) does not include:
  • Airfare: Australia-Edinburgh return
  • Personal spending money
  • Departure transfer to Edinburgh Airport
  • Luggage in excess of 20kg (44lbs)
  • Travel insurance
Tour Map

Tour Map

Terms & Conditions

A deposit of $500.00 AUD per person is required to reserve a place on an ASA tour.

Cancellation Fees

If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:

  • More than 75 days before departure: $500.00**
  • 75-46 days prior 25% of total amount due
  • 45-31 days prior 50% of total amount due
  • 30-15 days prior 75% of total amount due
  • 14-0 days prior 100% of total amount due

**This amount may be credited to another ASA tour departing within 12 months of the original tour you booked. We regret, in this case early-bird discounts will not apply.

We take the day on which you cancel as being that on which we receive written confirmation of cancellation.

Unused Portions of the Tour

We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.

Will the Tour Price or Itinerary Change?

If the number of participants on a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates ASA reserves the right to amend the advertised price. We shall, however, do all in our power to maintain the published price. If an ASA tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all tour monies paid. Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of ASA make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes in due course.

Travel Insurance

ASA requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. A copy of your travel insurance certificate and the reverse charge emergency contact phone number must be received by ASA no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the tour.

Final Payment

The balance of the tour price will be due 75 days prior to the tour commencement date.

Limitation of Liability

ASA is not a carrier, event or tourist attraction host, accommodation or dining service provider. All bookings made and tickets or coupons issued by ASA for transport, event, accommodation, dining and the like are issued as an agent for various service providers and are subject to the terms and conditions and limitations of liability imposed by each service provider. ASA is not responsible for their products or services. If a service provider does not deliver the product or service for which you have contracted, your remedy lies with the service provider, not ASA.

ASA will not be liable for any claim (eg. sickness, injury, death, damage or loss) arising from any change, delay, detention, breakdown, cancellation, failure, accident, act, omission or negligence of any such service provider however caused (contingencies). You must take out adequate travel insurance against such contingencies.

ASA’s liability in respect of any tour will be limited to the refund of amounts received from you less all non-refundable costs and charges and the costs of any substituted event or alternate services provided. The terms and conditions of the relevant service provider from time to time comprise the sole agreement between you and that service provider.

ASA reserves the sole discretion to cancel any tour or to modify itineraries in any way it considers appropriate. Tour costs may be revised, subject to unexpected price increases or exchange rate fluctuations.

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